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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver He told reporters this week that China’s response to former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong in 2019 cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.
Morey, who is now general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, tweeted in October 2019 a photo that read, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Morey later deleted the tweet and explained that he had no intention of offending the Rockets’ fans or friends in China. Demonstrators were protesting against China’s control of Hong Kong at the time.
China pulled the games off CCTV for the first time shortly after Morey’s comments, but the NBA returned to Chinese TV sets in March. Silver said the NBA lost “hundreds of millions” of dollars due to the 18-month blackout, but he also highlighted the league’s commitment to free speech for players, coaches and executives.
“Others have since spoken out about their opinions about China and other places in the world, and if the consequences are that we go off broadcasts or lose money, we accept that,” Silver told reporters at a news conference Thursday. According to Reuters.
The The NBA initially said Morey’s comments were “unfortunate” and that he “severely offended many of our friends and fans in China”. The university will later issue another statement affirming its commitment to freedom of expression.
Silver on Thursday also retracted criticism from US lawmakers over the NBA Business relationship with Chinanoting that the league is just one of the many companies working with the Chinese.
“From a political point of view, nearly every Fortune 100 company does business in China,” Silver said. “We have a huge, gigantic business relationship with China. Almost all of the phones in this room, the clothes you’re wearing, the shoes you’re wearing, are made in China. From a larger societal point of view, that’s something we have to do. Look at the US government for direction.”
“If people are now suggesting that we should no longer have trade relations with China, and I don’t think they do, then this is a huge global issue where we will follow our government’s lead,” he continued.
NBA agent Enes Kanter Freedom has been an outspoken critic of China for its human rights abuses, and has repeatedly called Los Angeles Lakers striker LeBron James And other mathematicians about trade relations with the state.
Chinese video streaming site Tencent has pulled the Boston Celtics’ season opener after Freedom, who was a member of the team at the time, wore sneakers criticizing China’s treatment of Tibet.
But some NBA executives have taken a different approach, downplaying the severity of the Chinese abuse.
“Nobody cares” about China, Chamath Palihapitiya, part owner of the Golden State Warriors, said in January. Concentration and forced labor camps for the Uyghur population.
“No one cares what happens to the Uyghurs, okay,” Palihapitiya said on the “All-In” podcast at the time. “Talk about it because you care and I think it’s okay for you to care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very cruel and ugly truth. Of all the things I care about, yeah, it’s just below my streak.”
He later retracted his comments on Twitter, saying he believed “human rights matter, whether in China, the United States or elsewhere.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said in October 2020 that he is “against human rights abuses around the world”, but disagrees with dealing with China “because we have to choose our battles.”
“Personally, I prioritize domestic issues,” Cuban said in a podcast at the time. “I am against human rights abuses around the world.”
Silver celebrated the NBA’s return to Chinese broadcasting and claimed that the league’s partnership with China does not contradict its beliefs.
“I think the engagement is positive, especially through sports,” Silver said at the press conference. “Using sports as a platform to keep people all over the world talking is critical. At the same time, I don’t think it goes against our values to broadcast our game in China and over 200 other countries in the world.”
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